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Observations placeholder

Saint Philip Neri – Heat of the Mystic … caused by broken ribs



Type of Spiritual Experience


Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian.  He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  He was also widely read on this subject.  He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.

A description of the experience

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

Philip [says Father Bacci]

……felt such a heat in the region of the heart, that it sometimes extended over his whole body, and for all thinness and spare diet, in the coldest days of winter it was necessary, even in the midst of the night, to open the windows, to cool the bed, to fan him while in bed, and in various ways to moderate the great heat. Sometimes it quite burned his throat, and in all his medicines something cooling was generally mixed to relieve him.
Cardinal Crescenzi, one of his spiritual children, said that sometimes when he touched his hand, it burned as if the saint was suffering from a raging fever. . . . Even in winter he almost always had his clothes open from the girdle upwards, and sometimes when they told him to fasten them lest he should do himself some injury, he used to say he really could not because of the excessive heat he felt. One day, at Rome, when a great quantity of snow had fallen, he was walking in the streets with his cassock unbuttoned; and when some of his penitents who were with him were hardly able to endure the cold, he laughed at them and said it was a shame for young men to feel cold when old men did not……

Elsewhere the biographer records how-

Sometimes in saying office, or after Mass, or in any other spiritual action, sparks, as it were of fire, were seen to dart from his eyes and from his face. This inward fire was such that it sometimes made him swoon, forcing him to throw himself on his bed, where he is said to have lain occasionally a whole day without any other sickness than that of divine love. On one occasion it so burned his throat that he was ill for several days.

There can be little doubt that the discovery which was made in the autopsy performed after St. Philip's death must be closely connected with the same intense fervour of divine love. During more than fifty years of his long life he had suffered from a strange and inexplicable palpitation of the heart, which was noticed, not only by himself, but by many of his companions and friends whom in the tenderness of his affection for their souls he often pressed to his bosom. The surgeons, when they opened his body, found a swelling under his left breast, which proved to be due to the fact that two of his ribs were broken and thrust outwards. In view of the positive testimony of the surgeons, there can be no dispute that the injury was there and had been there for many years.

The source of the experience

Other religious person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Heart arrythmia
Hurt [physical]